- Unlocking Sesame’s Potential -
TAG together with its partner SARA (Sustainable Action for Rural Advancement) are beginning a project to improve the sesame sector in Myanmar, which has the potential to lift hundreds of thousands of families out of poverty. Our project is focused on three townships in Magway District: Magway, Natmauk, and Taungdwingyi, which have the highest sesame production in the region. It is a two-year project funded by USAID and managed by Winrock.
Our targets in this stage of the project include:
- To Improve quality and quantity of sesame yield by 15% through the introduction of improved technology, crops management, irrigation, climate-adapted agriculture, and integrated beekeeping
- To reduce the amount of sesame lost post-harvest by 25% through the introduction of simple post-harvest solutions and training
- To raise the price smallholder farmers receive for sesame by facilitating direct linkages with domestic and international buyers and strengthening the farmers’ bargaining position and business skills with a special focus on women farmers
- To train 1,800 farmers and to ensure that 3,100 farmers experience increased sesame yield
The project will introduce modern technologies, enhanced methodologies and effective approach to help the farmers achieve the full potential that sesame can offer. Activities will include:
- Introducing drip irrigation which can increase the sesame yield by 15-25%, from a yield of around 5,000 kg per hectare to 6,500 kg per hectare. 100 farmers will be carefully selected and supported to install subsidised and financed drip irrigation kits.
- Exploring higher yield varieties and multiplication of currently available seeds in collaboration with international experts to cultivate high-yield, higher nutrition sesame.
- Promoting use of pollination of sesame crops by bees, which increases the quality and quantity of sesame by 22%-32%. Linkages will also be developed with beekeepers to facilitate the arrival of hives to sesame plots at the appropriate times of year.
- Encouraging cross-cropping, by alternating sesame with cotton or peanut that increases yields of each crop and helps suppress destructive pest and extends limited water resources.
- Establishing three demonstration farms to test and demonstrate the efficacy of drip irrigation, integrated pest management and post-harvest techniques.
- Introducing internationally proven low-cost, high-impact post-harvest solutions, which will be used by the farmers to reduce crop wastage and will inform the curriculum for training farmers.
- Training on how to identify diseases early on and create solutions, including analysing soil quality, as well as on ideal harvest timing to insure optimal moisture level.
- Linking small holders with processors, buyers and exporters that can provide inputs and transportation support, offer solutions for quality improvements, help to open potential markets, as well as act as ultimate buyer for their product.
- Collective bargaining via marketing platforms (e.g. sesame cooperatives) through sharing market information, transport-to-market facilities, and increased direct market access to reduce middleman costs, enhanced further by finance and business training.
- Providing opportunities for women’s leadership and decision-making by selecting women farmers early on and supporting them to take leadership roles.
Myanmar is currently the world’s largest producer of sesame, with 15% of the world’s sesame seed originating in Myanmar, with eighty-percent of it grown in the Central Dry Zone. Despite being the largest producer of sesame, however, Myanmar has a low yield per hectare, half of that of China, the most efficient sesame-producing country.
In addition, only 3% of the globally-traded sesame comes from Myanmar because the quality of sesame in Myanmar is poor and 3-10% of sesame is lost post-harvest. Sesame farming in Myanmar is not currently lucrative, with some farmers reporting making a profit only once in three years.
The Government of Myanmar has identified sesame as a priority crop for investment. Due to many years of isolation, Myanmar lags far behind in its agricultural techniques. Yet, if farming techniques and markets were improved, millions could be lifted out of poverty.
The following problems were found to the most salient.
- Low quality and quantity of sesame yield. Contributing causes include erratic rainfall patterns; labour shortages; lack of modern, water-saving irrigation techniques.
- Crop losses from pests and poor harvesting techniques. 3-10% of sesame is lost post-harvest due to high costs for pesticides and fertilizer; low levels of knowledge on proper pesticide and fertilizer use; and moisture and pests affecting stored sesame, leading to losses.
- Low prices for harvested sesame due to limited bargaining position in sale prices and poor links to final market. Contributing causes include: buyer-driven system with yields sold individually at broker buying centres in Magway without options for group selling; a large number of middle-men who take a large portion of the profit. If farmers were able to sell directly to buyers, they would increase their revenue by 32%.
- Women farmers are disenfranchised in the business side of farming and lack crucial business skills, yet women perform much of the farm work, including roles that determine the productivity and quality of crops and, therefore, farm profitability.
This project is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of Tag International Development and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the U.S. Government.